WASHINGTON -- As the night follows the day, the VAT cometh.
With the passage of Obamacare, creating a vast new middle-class entitlement, a national sales tax of the kind near-universal in Europe is inevitable.
We are now $8 trillion in debt. The Congressional Budget Office projects that another $12 trillion will be added over the next decade. Obamacare, when stripped of its budgetary gimmicks -- the unfunded $200 billion-plus doctor fix, the double counting of Medicare cuts, the 10-6 sleight-of-hand (counting 10 years of revenue and only 6 years of outflows) -- is at minimum a $2 trillion new entitlement.
It will vastly increase the debt. But even if it were revenue-neutral, Obamacare pre-empts and appropriates for itself the best and easiest means of reducing the existing deficit. Obamacare's $500 billion of cuts in Medicare and $600 billion in tax hikes are no longer available for deficit reduction. They are siphoned off for the new entitlement of insuring the uninsured.
This is fiscally disastrous because, as President Obama himself explained last year in unveiling his grand transformational policies, our unsustainable fiscal path requires control of entitlement spending, the most ruinous of which is out-of-control health care costs.
Obamacare was sold on the premise that, as Nancy Pelosi put it, "health care reform is entitlement reform. Our budget cannot take this upward spiral of cost." But the bill enacted on Tuesday accelerates the spiral: It radically expands Medicaid (adding 15 million new recipients/dependents) and shamelessly raids Medicare by spending on a new entitlement the $500 billion in cuts and the yield from the Medicare tax hikes.
Obama knows that the debt bomb is looming, that Moody's is warning that the Treasury's AAA rating is in jeopardy, that we are headed for a run on the dollar and/or hyperinflation if nothing is done.
Hence his deficit reduction commission. It will report (surprise!) after the November elections.
What will it recommend? What can it recommend? Sure, Social Security can be trimmed by raising the retirement age, introducing means testing and changing the indexing formula from wage growth to price inflation.
But this won't be nearly enough. As Obama has repeatedly insisted, the real money is in health care costs -- which are now locked in place by the new Obamacare mandates.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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